Thursday, June 7, 2012

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti

Do you have one of those foods that symbolizes home?  That reminds you of cuddling up by a fire in winter with a cup of tea and a movie?  This is my mother's recipe and it is one of the most comforting foods to me, and the most satisfying.  The combination of toasted hazelnuts and dark chocolate is one of the best of all time.  Just trust me.  I have been baking these on a regular basis since I was in college in Austin, Texas.  Actually, one of my favorite poems that I wrote during college, "Sunday Biscotti," is named after these cookies.  And they are REALLY DARN GOOD.  Ok so you need:

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 t. baking powder
pinch of salt
3 eggs at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
1 c. bittersweet chopped chocolate (I use the Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate pieces but you can use any good chocolate)
2 cups hazelnuts, toasted, skin removed

So first, you have to toast the hazelnuts.  I do this in a 350 degree oven on a large baking sheet.

Keep an eye on them.  They are done when they are fragrant and the skins are brown and loosened.  Just taste them and see if they taste toasted and awesome.  Put them in a kitchen towel and rub them together to remove the skins. (Oh, and you can leave the oven on at this point and turn it to 375 for the cookies...)

Some you will need to rub with your fingers.  Not all the skin will come off all of them.  That is OK - no worries.  They are delicious either way.

OK.  Meanwhile, combine flour, salt, baking powder.  Whisk it together...

In a mixer, or a bowl, combine 2 of the eggs and ONE EGG YOKE* (see note below), vanilla, and sugar.

* Note: you want to save the egg white for painting, so to do this, you have to use the egg yoke trick. Do you know that one? Just crack the egg shell in the middle, over a bowl, and transfer the yoke back and forth between the two egg shell halves, letting the egg white fall into the bowl.  Put the remaining yoke in with the sugar and vanilla.

OK. Mix those together on low speed.

Then add the flour mixture and mix to combine.

Add the chocolate and toasted hazelnuts.

Stir them in, or fold them in by hand.  Don't use the mixer to do this step (I tried it, it doesn't work!)

OK now it gets a little messy. Your hands will get kinda gross and sticky... OK very sticky.  If this bothers you, let's face it, you are not cut out to be a baker! :)

So you need to flour a work surface and knead this baby for three minutes.  With the hazelnuts and chocolate in it... yes it is a pain... but it's worth it...  and if we are being honest, I never really do it for 3 whole minutes.   I think I sometimes knead it first and then fold in the hazelnuts and chocolate gradually.  You will find a way.  Have faith.  You will need to add flour as you knead because otherwise the dough will coat your hands and stick to the work surface and yeah... just keep flour on hand.  OK?

Then you will want to split the dough in thirds and roll it into logs:

Put the logs on a greased baking sheet.

Remember that egg white we rescued?  Lightly beat it and then brush the tops of the logs with it and slide it into your 375 degree oven for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, pull the logs out and cut them at a 45 degree angle.


Turn the oven down to 275 degrees.  Put them back in for 35 minutes.  Sometime during that time (maybe after 15 or 20 minutes) pull them out again and lay the cookies flat on the baking sheet and finish cooking.

Cool on racks.  Eat your way to heaven! Great with coffee.  Great in winter.  Great in June.  Just great.

Every time my mom makes these she says they are the best she has ever made :)  Somehow, this is the truth.  Enjoy!

Oh and here is that poem:

Sunday Biscotti

I bake cookies
roll up my sleeves
rotate the handle as I sift
flour, salt, baking soda

I whisk the eggs
add sugar, and vanilla, craving
as always to stir myself into
the sweet liquid

I knead dough
hair slipping into my eyes
feet bare against cold
Mexican tiles

I listen to the rain on the patio
watch the way one drop collects
others as it slips
along the glass

I chop semisweet chocolate
and toast sheets of hazelnuts
bearing down as I stir, I watch
the flour dissipate into a sticky paste

I roll the dough into logs
paint them generously with
lightly beaten egg
and slide them into the oven

I watch a couple running
hand in hand through the rain

I lick the bowl, the whisk,
the wooden spoon,
I wash the measuring cups
and wipe down the surfaces

Putting my hands against
the warmth of the oven,
I cry for all that I love
and have left behind.

- Anya 

Dinner Rolls

YUM! I made these delicious dinner rolls today and served them warm from the oven. They break apart in your hands and are buttery and wonderful.  Here's what you need to make them:

3 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
1/3 cup warm water
1 cup tepid buttermilk
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 - 5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Vegetable or canola oil for greasing

OK.  First, sprinkle the yeast and pinch of sugar over the warm water (make sure the water is quite warm so that the yeast is activated).  Let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.  It will look like this:

Melt the butter... mmm butter

In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, combine buttermilk, sugar, melted butter, lightly beaten eggs, salt, and 1 cup of flour.  Beat 2 minutes until creamy.

Add another cup of flour and the yeast mixture.  Beat for 1 minute.

Add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time until dough pulls away from sides.  Then switch to a dough hook, knead on low speed for about a minute.  Add flour a bit at a time if the dough sticks.

The dough will be soft and springy.  Coat a large bowl with oil and turn dough once in oil to coat.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature until dough doubles in size, about an hour and a half.   Make sure dough is in a draft free spot, not near a window.  If it sits longer than an hour and a half that is OK too.

Sprinkle a little flour on a work surface, split the dough in half, and roll between palms 2 - 18inch long logs.

Cut each log into 18 one-inch pieces.  Grease 2 8 inch cake pans.  Roll the pieces into balls and place in greased pans so balls are just touching.

Cover the pans with plastic wrap and let those babies rise for another 30-45 minutes, until they are nice and puffy.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and bake rolls until light golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Let cool slightly in pans.

Serve warm with pasta or meat or whatever you eat! Enjoy!